March 12, 2019 at 4:37 pm · naltadonna · Comments Off on Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the Lenten season. This Sunday we began a Lenten series called “Listening at the Cross,” in which we will spend the next 7 weeks at the foot of the cross, leaning in close to hear what Jesus says. Oftentimes in the Protestant Church, we can have a hard time making the cross real; however, there could be no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday, no resurrection without a death- which is why we are spending this Lenten season at the cross. Each week of this series we will deep dive into each of the seven last words (or rather, statements) of Jesus at the cross. This week we began with what is believed to be the first of the last seven words of Jesus: Father, forgive, them, for they know not what they do.
In Luke 23, we find Jesus beaten, bloodied, and barely able to walk. When they get to Golgotha, the Roman soldiers nail Jesus’ hands and feet to a cross. When people were crucified, they ultimately died by asphyxiation, where they wouldn’t be able to get enough oxygen to breathe. Jesus was in horrific physical pain but also emotional agony too, as the crowds, leaders, and soldiers sneered against him. Yet in the midst of such great suffering, he strains his breath to offer a simple prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus asked God to forgive people who undermined his ministry, called for his crucifixion, and killed him. This is quite an unexpected prayer, and it would have been shocking to anyone who overhead it. Jesus wanted us to overhear this prayer. It would have been easier and less painful to pray silently, but he wanted us to see him offering compassion towards the people who wronged him.
Jesus offers this prayer not only for the people by the cross that day, but for all of us who have ever wronged God. Jesus’ compassion and mercy extends to all. As Jesus prays this prayer from the cross, we discover no deed is unforgiveable, no person unredeemable. The part of this statement “for they know not what they do” implies that Jesus knows these people, their hearts, and their pains. It is an invitation for us to take a step back when we are wronged to consider another person’s story and have compassion on them. I have come to believe that each person who does something we consider offensive and egregious does so out of great suffering and pain of their own.
Forgiveness is hard, but forgiveness is necessary. If we cannot forgive others, it closes us off from the grace we need. Forgiveness enables us to experience true freedom in Christ. The power of forgiveness comes from the truth that it did hurt and matter, yet I still chose to forgive. Rather than being gripped by a grudge, Jesus invites us to find freedom through forgiveness.
Monday- Luke 23:26-35
Tuesday- Matthew 18:21-35
Wednesday- Matthew 6:7-15
Thursday- Isaiah 1:10-20
Friday- Psalm 51:1-19
Questions to Consider and Discuss:
1. Jesus prayed the prayer “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” over you too. What does that mean to you?
2. Are you holding a grudge against someone who has wronged you right now? If so, do you think you could overcome the wrong done to you by praying the prayer “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”?